Barnes Family Law and Clark Family Law: Two forces become one

March 2018 saw the coming together of two of Yorkshire’s family solicitors under the banners of Barnes Family Law and Clark Family Law

Barnes Family Law was established eight years ago by Alison Barnes, a divorce lawyer with more than 20 years of experience. Barnes is known for her no-nonsense, down-to-earth approach with clients and is renowned nationally for her complex forensic skills in the area of pensions. She established Barnes Family Law in 2010 and over the past eight years has built up a strong team and successful practice. This was recognised when Barnes won the Managing Partner of the Year Award at the Yorkshire Legal Awards.

Sally Clark is a solicitor of 15 years of experience. Her previous career in the mental health sector greatly informs and assists her work as an accredited family mediator, an area in which she is highly skilled and specialises. Clark is named in the Legal 500 as one of the region’s most experienced family mediators. She has worked in a range of legal practices, most recently in another niche practice in the centre of Leeds. Clark is known for her pragmatic approach to cases and in particular her work in the family mediation field. She sits on the West Yorkshire Family Justice Board. She also sits on—and is secretary to—the national board of the Family Mediators Association.

Clark and Barnes have now decided to join forces. The combined result is Barnes Family Law Limited, of which Clark and Barnes are both directors.

The lawyers have established formidable reputations in their own right and both believed it was important to each retain their own identity. As a result, they will continue to trade as Barnes Family Law from their Liversedge head office. Clark Family Law opened its doors for business on 1 March 2018 in Central Harrogate.

The new Harrogate office is based in Central Harrogate on North Park Road and offers clients assistance with all types of private family law, with a specific focus on dispute resolution and family mediation and collaborative law.

Clark conducts financial mediation and child inclusive mediation and regularly sees children as part of the family mediation process. She leads the Harrogate office. Clark sits on, and is secretary to the national board of, the Family Mediators Association and, as an experienced professional practice consultant, supervises other mediators throughout the region.

Barnes continues to lead Barnes Family Law in Liversedge, West Yorkshire. She is assisted by Jason Deacon, a highly experienced legal executive with many years of experience in private family law. Barnes and Deacon also deal with all aspects of private family law for local and national clients. Barnes has a particular and unique expertise in pensions. She has built a reputation with police forces nationally and now represents police officers of all ranks on a national basis.

The choice of Harrogate for Clark Family Law was purposeful in that it provides coverage for West and North Yorkshire, and Clark and Barnes, in their different specialisms within the private family law arena, are well known in both areas. The decision to join forces was based on a similar work ethic and approach to business.

Barnes says: “As a firm, we have established a strong reputation for the quality of our work and are known nationally within the police force as well. For a number of years I have wanted to establish a dispute resolution side to the practice and Sally brings that to the table along with her reputation for dealing with the higher net worth clients and her skills in dealing with difficult and complex private children cases.”

For Clark, the decision to join and build a niche family practice was based on a commitment to focus on an area of work that she loves, and to build a practice with strengths in dispute resolution and litigation across the whole spectrum of private family law. The practice offers a fully accredited family mediation service from both the Harrogate and Liversedge offices, offering family mediation coverage in both West and North Yorkshire.

The mediation side of the practice is entirely fixed fee, as is a number of its legal offerings, such as pre- and post-nuptial agreements.

As a firm, Clark says: “We recognise that a pure litigation practice based upon hourly rates is unlikely to be attractive to clients in an ever changing market. The model of family law is changing. Clients are more aware of the choices available to them and are shopping around to ensure that they get the ‘best fit’ with a lawyer. Furthermore, with the promotion of family mediation in recent years, an attendance at a mediation information and assessment meeting being a prerequisite for parties prior to issuing any court proceedings to deal with financial remedy issues associated with divorce, or applications in relation to children, it is important as a practice to have a wide range of legal options for clients both as to approaches to cases and funding options.”

The ethos of the practice is the personal touch. “People instruct people,” says Barnes, “and by doing a good job for clients and treating them as people and not just a money making machine, then we are doing the best job we can for clients and in turn that leads to a strong foundation on which to move forward.”

This article originally appeared in issue 151 of Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer